China faces a diabetes epidemic, a new report warned Thursday, with rising obesity levels and an ageing population helping to trigger a major public health problem.
The study published in The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that more than 92 million men and women are living with diabetes in China, or almost one in 10 adults in the world's largest population.
"Our results indicate that diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in the general adult population in China," the report said, adding that most cases remained undiagnosed.
"Given its large population, China may bear a higher diabetes-related burden than any other country."
The report said another 148.2 million were considered to be pre-diabetic, or showing early symptoms of developing diabetes, a condition that could lead to cardiovascular disease, China's leading cause of death.
It said that effects associated with rapid pace of growth and change in the world's third largest economy were a factor.
"The ageing of the population, urbanisation, nutritional changes, and decreasing levels of physical activity, with a consequent epidemic of obesity, have probably contributed to the rapid increase" in levels of diabetes in China, the report said.
The study was based on a sample of more than 46,000 adults aged 20 years or older from 14 provinces and municipalities, which the authors said was representative of the entire population.
The report said 9.7 percent of the adult population, accounting for more than 50 million men and 42 million women, lived with diabetes while pre-diabetes affected 15.5 percent, or 76 million men and 72 million women.
It urged that "public health measures should be undertaken to mitigate the consequences of new cases of diabetes."